Well I have just spent two fabulous days in the Sutjecka National Park part of the Republic of Srpska region of Bosnia & Hezegovina. With a great deal of help from my Airbnb host and her parents I must add.
Sunday morning start very wet indeed, a marked contrast to two the previous warm and sunny days. The lack of trams due to the Sarajevo marathon being staged meant I had to get a taxi to the airport to pick up my hire car. By which time, the rain has got even heavier. So, with water in mind I headed to the thermal spa set in the wooded Ilidza park. A sauna and the sulphurous thermal waters, very hot and very relaxing.
I then headed to Foca in the eastern part of Bosnia & Hezegovina. Due to the Dayton peace agreement, of which I know you are all familiar, this region is called Republic of Srpska. It was a 2 hour drive that was made only slightly longer by following the sat nav on the phone rather than trusting the map I had bought, so much for technology. On arriving in Foca I had to ask for directions once again. Having just a street name to go by. However, the four people I asked did not seem to know where it was ( I think a pattern is forming). The fourth person took me into the local betting shop, the manager did not seem to know, but one of his staff new the host of the accommodation I would be stopping at. It is a small town after all, someone was bound to know. The best solution agreed upon to get me there is the tried and tested, follow the taxi. And it worked.
Ana, my host was not there (away on business) but her mother and father (Walter and Lenka) welcomed me and have looked after me superbly for the last few days. First up was food and pear brandy (lots of that). Tomato and pepper salad, with potatoes and beef, lots of bread. Delicious and most welcome. We were then joined by Tamara, who is Ana’s friend and speaks fluent English. We had a fascinating discussion about, travel, politics, history economics etc… and it was good to get a different perspective from another region of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Tamara then asked what I would like to do in the national park for the next few days. As it happens Ana had a plan already in place that I immediate agreed to. With Tamara gone it was Ana’s parents and me. They speak no English and I speak no Serbian. However, with a mixture of a little German and Russian we both knew, we got by.
Breakfast the following morning was mostly from the garden, tomatoes, peppers, plums, walnuts. And some freshly backed bread, yogurt, jam and strong coffee. Try biting the top off a plum, removing the stone and replacing with a walnut piece… Delicious).
We all then headed out. Me driving and Ana’s parents giving me directions. After a shorty while we headed off up into the wooded hills on a dirt track. With two stops in quick succession. Both with a fifteen minute or so walk to fabulous vantage points looking straight down onto the valley below and a seventy metre high waterfall as well. As it was an exposed ridge it was interesting to see quite a number of the trees had lightening damage. I.E. Crack in the bark and then a charred hole at the base where the tree exploded outwards when the lightening struck. We headed higher into the cloud and came to a stop as the track ran out. Picnic time that Lenka had provided. Loads of lovely food.Then in the space of ten minutes the cloud lifted. What a fantastic view. All of the Zelengora mountain range right in front of us. Just fabulous timing, and a real treat as I had no idea at all where we were or how high up we were (other than it was a tad cold). We all walked to a man made vantage point and I may have taken a number of photos. The highest Mountain in Bosnia & Herzegovina or mount Maglic. And I was right next to it. However, the only mountain not to lose its cloud was this one. Not to worry, the magical surprise as the clouds lifted was enough.
On our return, evening meal was also cooked for me. We all sat down to grilled trout that was so good, roasted peppers and feast full of other delicious home made food. Breakfast the following morning was just as extensive, but with the addition of dry cured ham and kaymak.
Once again I put my faith in Ana’s parents, who said they were taking me to a lake. What they did not tell me was the magical three hour drive through the mountains to get there. The weather was clear so the were views in all directions. When we got there it was such an idyllic spot. Lake Orlvacko. Sheer cliffs behind catching the full sun and a few trees surrounding the lake. So tranquil, and not another person about. Under the warm sunshine, it was just perfect to enjoy the picnic and go for a wander into the hills afterwards before heading back.
I deliberately included the Sutjecka national park as I wanted to get immerse myself in it. However, I had no plan on how I would achieve this. Thanks to Ana and her parents I quite by chance found the perfect hosts. Not only did they supply me with lots and lots of delicious fresh home made food and drink, but they somehow knew what I wanted to do without me even saying anything. It is as If they could read my mind. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think these two days could be so perfect. They really did hit the jackpot for me. So much so I am stopping and extra night. Oh and remember, all of this has been done with a language barrier. So I would never have been able to explain myself anyway. This makes it even more impressive and emphasises the point that beautifully rich nature has no barriers at all. Neither does wonderful hospitality of which I was the very very lucky recipient.